"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16
7/8/09 Sally about 50
As they sat on a park bench I asked Sally and her friend if I could interview them about their spiritual beliefs. Her friend, nervous about the beer in his hand, declined but Sally, who proclaimed herself to be a Christian, accepted. I wondered at the alcohol on her breath, especially that early in the day, and the cigarette in her hand, but I try not to judge people by lifestyle issues since the Ten Commandments are enough to convict anyone regardless of lifestyle. I asked about her beliefs and found that she believes in her own version of God who does not punish sin, but welcomes everyone into heaven with open arms. “And I forgive everyone too” she said, and in the course of our conversation she claimed to forgive a man who raped her in college, some girls who had mugged her, and the woman who stole her husband. Just as some people trust that they can do enough good deeds to earn their way to heaven, Sally trusts in her own forgiving attitude so much that she said God would see her as a VERY good person. She only reluctantly admitted to breaking some commandments, and saw no justifiable reason for herself or anyone to be punished. People aren’t “bad” they just “make mistakes” she claimed. I pray Sally can understand the true nature of sin, that it is so repulsive to God that only the atoning blood of Christ can satisfy the demands of His justice and wrath.
Note: We videotaped this 25 minute conversation and edited it down to about 14 minutes. To view this video, click here and please don't laugh at my wild hair!
7/9/09 Sherman, about 50
After a late afternoon errand I stopped at a Borders bookstore where lots of people were browsing the bookshelves. I used a million dollar tract to start a conversation with Sherman, who hasn’t been involved in church since childhood. He believed he would go to heaven “as long as I don’t do something so bad that it’s beyond God’s ability to forgive”. I asked if he meant something like murder, which he did, and I told him about a neighbor of mine who had stabbed someone to death as a teenager, did about 12 years in prison, and now seems like just a regular neighbor. An interesting discussion led to the question “how good does one have to be to make it to heaven?” After I gave him the “good person test” based on some of the 10 commandments Sherman humbly agreed that he is a lying thief, a murderer and adulterer at heart, that he would be guilty before God on judgment day, and that he deserves to be punished. He gladly and thankfully received the good news that Jesus had taken his punishment for him, and especially related to the idea that one need not live life wondering if they have been good enough for heaven, but instead we repent and serve God out of thankful obedience for God’s forgiveness in Christ. As we parted ways he profusely thanked me “for this enlightening conversation”.
7/10/09 Noe, about 45
Today was Bob’s memorial celebration, filled with his family and friends, co-workers, and his church family as we gathered together in agreement that Bob had left an awesome legacy of faith. The Lord has done much in and through his life since he committed his life to Jesus just about 6 years ago. Today I write about one of the many lives the Lord touched through Bob. Standing in front of Bob’s picture memorial, weeping, was a co-worker from the museum where Bob was a security guard. “This is the man who led me to the Lord. I miss him so much” Noe said through his tears. He told me how Bob used to talk to him everyday, encouraging him in his new faith. Today Noe is active in a church, is involved in an outreach to the homeless just as Bob was, and has started an after-school program. And Noe wasn’t alone; there must have been at least a dozen co-workers from the museum who gathered to honor Bob’s legacy. This was a side of Bob’s life that we in his church family didn’t know much about, though we could have expected as much. Bob faithfully served Jesus wherever he went, joyfully telling people around him about his Savior and what he had been saved from. Evangelism was everyday for Bob; it was just a part of who he was. For me, I need a daily goal to remind myself of my commitment to share the Gospel. Maybe someday it will just be a natural part of me like it was for Bob!
7/12/09 Tyler, Randy about 20
One aspect of Bob’s life that struck me at his memorial service yesterday was the persistence he had sharing his faith with people he saw on a regular basis. I find it easier to reach out to strangers who I may never see again; I trust I am just one part of a series of events that the Holy Spirit orchestrates to bring people to salvation and growth in their faith. But with people I know, I feel more responsible to follow up with continued ministry. I get overwhelmed with that task, though it still belongs to the Lord. So today as Tyler and Randy walked by my house, who I know as neighborhood “thugs”, I remembered Bob’s willingness to reach out to everyone around him, so I walked over to them and began a conversation by telling them I had a million dollar question. This got them curious, and I said “I hope you live to be 100, but the truth is 10 out of 10 people die, and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so what comes next?” They began to talk about ghosts and reincarnation. Randy declared he didn’t believe God exists. I asked what would happen if they stood in front of an oncoming truck and closed their eyes and pretended trucks didn’t exist. Reality would hit them hard no matter what they believed about it. They were very thoughtful about this, and Tyler said ‘That’s a good point, I never thought of it that way”. Just then a phone call let them know a friend was waiting, so they thanked me and went on their way. All I can say is “to be continued” - Lord willing!
7/13/09 John, 42
John is well known in my neighborhood as a community activist and leader. I’ve known him for many years but never shared my faith with him, until today. We were talking at the park about school and community issues. Finally I told him I had a serious question to ask. “But first I want to ask you this,” I began. “Suppose I was diagnosed with a fatal disease, but found a miraculous cure. If I then believed my friend had the disease, what should I do?” “Tell him about it and the cure, of course” John said. “What if he gets mad at me and doesn’t want to hear it?” John agreed that I should still tell him if I am a real friend. “Well that’s the spirit in which I ask this question, so here goes. What do you believe happens when we die?” I asked. John told about how he was at a crossroads in his Catholic beliefs, though he felt God would judge him to be a good person. I helped him see that God has every right to expect us to do good with what he has given us and to punish those who break His laws. I shared both the law and gospel. He had to leave before I could explain it as completely as I wanted to, but he said he’d like to talk more and gladly received the info I gave him.
7/14/09 Mary about 55
I’ve been more intentional about reaching out in my neighborhood where I know a lot of people, and today talked to Mary on the sidewalk, who did daycare for our children when they were young. She talked of the pain and sorrow she still has after losing her father three years ago, leading her to two massive heart attacks. I saw the tears in her eyes as she thought of him, and wondered how I could compassionately but frankly talk of spiritual matters. I believed I might really upset her by talking about what happens after we die, possibly casting doubt on her father’s salvation. I just decided to start by asking about her beliefs to see where it would lead, so I said, “I’ve known you for years, and you’ve known my faith is important to me, and I’m sorry I’ve never asked you until now, but I’m just wondering what your spiritual beliefs are.” She answered, “I’d like to think there is more beyond this life and everything happens for a reason.” She said if there is an afterlife she believes in heaven and purgatory for people who need to be punished. I let her know that purgatory really isn’t taught in the Bible and that if there was some other way for people to be saved then God wouldn’t have allowed his Son to suffer and die on the cross. “Our good works can’t save us, but are done as a response to what Christ has done for us.” She agreed wholeheartedly, and was so much more willing to talk about her beliefs than I gave her credit for. What was I thinking?